James Borrell is a biodiversity scientist and science communicator researching how people and nature can adapt to environmental change.

How to… Crowdfund Conservation

Crowdfunding websites like kickstarter and Indiegogo are experiencing an explosion of popularity.

The public are voting with their pockets and supporting ideas and initiatives that they believe in. If ever there was an opportunity for the conservation community to leap on, then this is it.

However, in a recent breakdown of the different categories of projects funded on kickstarter, food managed $1.5million, music hit $13million and film reached a staggering $19million. Meanwhile, conservation didn’t even register as a category.

Clearly, this is something that passionate environmentalists, scientists and the public should change.


What is Crowdfunding

“Crowdfunding is a financing method that involves funding a project with relatively modest contributions from a large group of individuals, rather than seeking substantial sums from a small number of investors.”

How Can We Use Crowdfunding?

The very essence of crowdfunding means that projects that are most appealing, inspiring or original; are most likely to be funded. The only limit is your imagination. Here’s some ideas for building a project…

1. Crowdfunding is ideal for unconventional approaches that might be less likely to receive funding from the usual sources (e.g. government).

2. Community projects where a large number of people are likely to receive direct benefit are frequently successful.

3. Many projects offer rewards or incentives for different levels of support. Conservation projects are ideal because they can frequently offer photography, progress updates, locally produced items, or visits to field stations.

4. Crowdfunding seems to work best for small to medium sized projects (with some exceptions!). These frequently provide the best returns on limited funds.


What Types of Projects Can Be Crowdfunded?

  • Focusing on conserving a specific species or group, like this project in Samoa.
  • Help support the science and technology skills needed for conservation in the developing world, like this project in Cameroon.
  • Encourage sustainable livelihoods and conservation by empowering local communities, like this project, in Peru. (There’s also a nice write up of this project, over here.)
  • Or you can always go more ambitious, like these guys, based in Wales of all places.

(Of course, I should think you could probably get the solution to climate change and biodiversity loss funded too, just need to think of it first…)

Tips For Designing a Successful Crowdfunded Conservation Project

1. Choice of Platform

The number of crowdfunding sites is growing rapidly, unsurprisingly wikipedia provides one of the most up to date lists. Bear in mind that the concept can support so many different sites partly because of the popularity of the idea, but also because most sites take a small cut or percentage of the funding.

There’s a lot of more conservation orientated crowdfunding sites under development at the moment, more about that below.

2. Start Small

People like to fund projects with a good chance of success, be realistic, and deliver efficiently and effectively.

3. Plan Ahead

For people to fund your project, they have to have heard of it. Developing a network of supporters in advance of launching your project can take some time, but it will allow you to quickly spread your message once you launch your campaign. (It’s a different topic, but the Janapar project did this very effectively indeed.)

4. Video, Video, Video

By far the single thing that the most successful projects have in common is a well crafted, inspiring and descriptive video clip. Get someone on board who is willing to help build this, or teach yourself.

5. Build A Story

Compelling crowd funding campaigns have a compelling story. If you can’t explain what you’re trying to achieve in 50 words, then simplify. With the sheer amount of information available on the internet, you need to catch the public’s attention.

6. Invest In Yourself

Ask yourself this: Would you fund you? It gives potential funders a lot of confidence if you are invested financially (probably mentally and physically too), in the project. This goes for more conventional types of sponsorship too. This doesn’t mean you need to mortgage a home or throw in your life savings, just that you’re looking to crowdfunding for help and confident in your chances of success.

7. Learn from others

Look to see which projects in a similar theme have been successful, after all, in conservation you’re all on the same team.


A Few Words of Caution

  • Crowdfunding is not an instant fix for conservation, expect a considerable investment in time before hand.
  • On the Kickstarter platform, for example, only 43% of projects are successful. (…but that’s still pretty impressive!)
  • Make sure you accurately cost your project, can you realistically achieve the desired outcome with the requested funding. If not, then you’ll be letting your supporters down.
  • Crowdfunding frequently means an ongoing commitment far beyond the end of your online campaign.



10 Inspiring Crowdfunding Campaigns

Crowdfunding conservation is for me, just another cracking example of Citizen Science. Sometimes people don’t have the time, know-how, or desire to get involved with conservation at home or abroad, but they want to do somethingREAD MORE


Photography as a Conservation Tool

It’s the photographs that act as ambassadors for conservation projects around the world. They speak louder than any number of words in a report sitting unread on a desk…READ MORE

Conservation Community

Rather excitingly, Healthy Planet are imminently launching a new crowdfunding platform called Conservation Community. Click below to take a look…


More Conservation Orientated Crowdfunding Platforms

Carbon Story

CarbonStory is a social start-up giving users a fun and informative way to become part of the solution to climate change by purchasing carbon offsets in a new way.


Unfortunately the gap between science and society is massive and only growing larger. SciFund Challenge exists to do something about this problem, by helping to close this gap in three distinct ways. We train and encourage researchers in their science outreach activities. We also help connect the public directly to science and scientists. Lastly, we run science crowdfunding drives to help fund research.

Conservation Finance Alliance

The first Columbian social crowdfunding platform is launched. As of December 4th, 2012, Colombians can visit www.donaccion.org to contribute to seven social causes, presented by creative communities committed to a better country.


GreenFunder is a global fundraising site for socially responsible projects and businesses. To GreenFunder, green is ‘anything with good intentions’. Projects range from simple student field trips to complex green business start-ups.

If you know of any others, please do let me know in the comments below…


Crowdfunding For Expedition Angano

I’m also crowdfunding, together with the Expedition Angano team, to fund equipment for Madagascan conservation students.

Take a look at how we’re getting on.

Some Useful Links